Well, I have to say – by the time the family got to Moses, the blessings over each of the tribes sounded a lot nicer than some of the things that Jacob offered as blessings to his sons.
At least, unless you’re Simeon – who at least got mentioned back in Genesis when Jacob blessed his sons. Here, he’s absent.
This is perhaps the most fond and affectionate passage that I can recall reading throughout these first five books of the bible – the Pentateuch. There have been passionate passages – such as aspects of the song in chapter 32, but here is this full flowing list of blessings.
There were promises of blessings in other areas, but they all came with conditional follow-ups. Sure, these are all the good things that can happen to you – but if you’re bad, then all this will happen. It’s all counter balanced.
This is the second last chapter of Deuteronomy, and the books of the law – basically this initial segment of the bible.
So essentially, Moses finishes on a warm note. He’s been there, telling the Israelites all that’s going on, all that can happen if they continue to do what is right – and all that can happen if they go their own way. Finally, he comes to this point of farewell, and he finishes with these warm exhortations to each of them.
Surely it is you who love the people; all the holy ones are in your hand. At your feet they all bow down, and from you receive instruction.” ~ Deuteronomy 33:3
I love this chapter, and I’m struggling to really explain why. I really love this picture of God, though, in verse 3.
I got into a little bit of a debate over the past 24 hours on Facebook – not really a surprise or new position for me to be in, but anyway. Part of the argument that has come up against God is all the things that people have done in his name. How can God be loving when so much has been done in his name?
Well, because the second part of this verse is missing. God loves all the people – and those who follow him should be receiving instruction from him. Those who are holy and in his hand are the ones bowing at his feet, and receiving his instruction. God’s instruction to us has been clear since Jesus had his final conversation with the disciples. The Great Commission, to go into all of the world, making disciples and teaching them to obey every command that he gave.
Love was the greatest commandment according to Jesus: Love God, and love those around us.
God is love. End of story. The heart of the gospel, at the heart of everything that he does, everything that is good, is love. Therefore, anything that is not of love can also not be of God.
People can say and claim all sorts of things in the name of God – but if it is not of love, then it is not of God. God doesn’t come from us; he is not made by our actions, he simply is. We are the ones who are flawed and sinful, not God. So then why hold it against God?
If we, as the holy ones of God, are not bowing at his feet and receiving his instruction, then it is on our shoulders, not God’s, as to what the consequences are of our actions. The instructions are there, it is up to us to receive them and enact them in our hearts and lives.
A friend of mine posted the following quote on Facebook today:
“Jesus never asked me to give to an organization the kind of exclusive devotion he demands from his disciples.”
It’s a quote from Michael Spencer’s book, Mere Churchianity, and after I googled the quote and read some of the other things that he says in the book, I made my way to Koorong on my lunch break to buy a copy; and so far, it’s quite an interesting and very entertaining read.
The basic concept behind the book is addressing the causes for disillusionment and rejection of the church by so many people these days. Spencer actually refers to census information which shows that the largest growing group of religious affiliation in recent years, is actually those who are not affiliated with any religion. He points out that this is separate from atheism and agnosticism, and therefore it would seem that these people are at least in some way open to God, but maybe just not the God of the church.
The fact is that I agree with much he has to say. I was speaking with a friend on Monday about churches, and what level of obligation we should have to our local church. I don’t consider, as I think I’ve said before, the local church to be ‘the church’. The Church, as Jesus meant it to be, is the body of Christ. No matter what race, colour, doctrine, status, class or any other category you can think of that we might be in, it doesn’t matter because The Church is the body, all those who are in God’s kingdom.
So far, it’s definitely a great read.
Two of them. Made of pure silver, hammered out and to be used to call the assembly together.
I can’t help thinking of The Sound of Music and the whistle that Captain von Trapp uses to call the children together.
Slightly different context in the bible, but it just amused me.
Then, they do move. It’s time – the twentieth day of the second month – they’re finally underway and moving away from Sinai.
You know, it’s interesting that the Israelites were on the move. They were camped, always ready to go. The previous chapter talked about sometimes God would leave them in a place for a long time, and other times they’d only stay for a short time. Here they are, ready to go, and they move out.
I love that the Tent goes first. After the tribes of Judah, Issachar and Zebulun up and leave to lead the path to where they’re going next, then the Gershonites and Merarites from Levi gather together their carts filled with all the cloth and the tents from the Tabernacle. Then out comes Reuben, Simeon and Gad.
Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things. The tabernacle was to be set up before they arrived. ~ Numbers 10:21
So they split the tent up from the Altar and Ark and Lampstand and other things, so that the Gershonites and Merarites would have time to build the temple before they arrived.
But back to going. The Israelites were nomadic, even God was living in a tent, ready to go whenever was necessary or whenever he called the best time. Living in tents, think about it, the Israelites wouldn’t have ever had a chance to relax. There would have always been the knowledge in the back of their minds that they could be up and moving again at any moment.
Until they reached the promised land, they could never really put their feet up.
What is our promised land? I know for me, it’s heaven, and in the presence of my Dad and King. I don’t want to put my feet up and rest until I’m in that promised land. I want to be ready to go, whenever and wherever God commands and sends.
Tired. It hit midnight and I remembered I hadn’t done this for tonight so I’m just doing a short one.
Well, this could be a really long discussion, actually, if I wanted to make it such. As I read through each of the laws in this passage, certain thoughts came to me on almost all of them, so it could be broken down almost verse-by-verse. I’m not going to do that, though.
It’s an interesting read, though, just some of the things that were forbidden or processes that had to be followed. If you plant a fruit tree, you can’t eat the fruit for the first four years. You shouldn’t plant two crops in the same field, or wear cloth made from two different fabrics (There goes the poly/cotton blend clothing market), don’t clip the edges of your beard or the hair at the side of your head. It’s all quite strange and interesting.
Other laws that are brought up in this passage make more sense. Use honest scales and weights, rise in the presence of your elders, treat aliens in the land as your own. Some of these things are actions that, really, I’d think would be common sense. It’s just about showing general courtesy to people, still, God actually considers these things worth specifying. I mean, he doesn’t actually go into pages and pages of laws that would also come under common sense and common courtesy, so therefore that would imply to me that these are actions that God really considers something special.
It reminds me of Jesus saying:
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~ John 13:35
In spite of what so many people would try to suggest, God is actually all about love. Love for one another, no matter who the ‘other’ is; and love for him. Showing respect and courtesy to others is a simple thing that can reflect God’s heart.
I remember being struck when I arrived in Perth by something. We caught the shuttle bus from the airport in to Perth, and when we arrived at the YWAM base, I stopped, gave the bus driver a good handshake and said thanks to him. I was slightly startled by just how much his face lit up; when I did that, and God put into my mind the question: How many people actually stop to give a person in his position a real thank you? It’s one thing to say thanks in passing, with barely a second glance to a person who serves us – someone whose face we wouldn’t even remember three minutes later; but it’s worth remembering to actually be genuine in our thanks.
The little things that we can do, can be such a blessing to the people receiving them.
The Israelites were commanded, that if a foreigner entered their land, they were to be treated as an Israelite. There wasn’t to be any difference in interaction between their fellow countrymen and people from outside. Sounds very similar to loving your neighbour as yourself.